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Yale C/AIM Web Style Guide

Contents

Site Design

Introduction

Site structure

Site elements I

Site elements II

Intranet design

Site Covers

Managing time
Many Web sites must be frequently updated so the information doesn't get stale. But the presence of the new information may not be obvious to readers of your Web site unless you make a systematic effort to let them know about it. If items listed the on the menus on your home page are updated you could just put a "NEW" graphic next to each updated item. You should also date every one of your Web pages, and update that as information changes so that users can be sure that they have the latest version of things. However, if your site is complex, with many levels of information spread over dozens (or hundreds) of pages you might be better off making a "What's New" page that is specifically designed to inform users that information in your site has been updated. You may also want to use a "What's New" page as a university or institutional newsletter, emphasizing timely information in your organization.

Menus, submenus, and home pages
Unless your site is very small you will probably need a number of submenu pages that the user enters from general category listing on your home page. In complex sites with dozens of topic areas it is not practical to load up the home page of a Web site with dozens of links the page gets too long to load in a timely manner, and the sheer complexity of long pages may be off-putting to many users.
Each major submenu in effect becomes a mini-home page for that section of your Web site. For specialized, detailed menus you may encourage frequent users to link directly to a submenu in your Web site. Thus the submenus could become alternate home pages oriented to specific groups of users. Just make sure to include a basic set of links to other sections of your site on each submenus, and most important of all, always include a link to a menu or home page on every Web page in your site.

"Other related sites" catalogues
The World Wide web is growing so rapidly that even the large commercial Web index services like Yahoo are only partial listings of the information that is accessible from the Web. Often the first sets of links Web users make when they begin to build their own Web sites are collections of favorite links to sites related to their professions, industries, or personal interests. In a corporate or institutional site a well-edited, well-maintained "other sites" page may be the most valuable and heavily-used resource in your Web site.

Bibliographies, indexes, appendices
The concept of "documents" in electronic environments like the Web pages is often flexible, and the economics and logistics of digital publishing make it possible to provide more information to your site users without the costs associated with paper documents. To make a report available to colleagues on paper you would have to print a copy for each person. Costs and practicality dictate that paper reports be very concise, and without much supporting material or appendices thus your audience is often left without access to the information upon which the writers based their conclusions for no reason other than the high cost of printing on paper. Aside from the main body of reports, you may wish to include lists of resources that would not normally be included in corporate reports because of space and cost considerations, but which could be made available in a Web site. Bibliographies, glossaries, appendices of information that might be too bulky to load into a task force report or committee recommendations document could be placed in a Web site instead, making the information available to other researchers without over-stuffing reports with material of interest to only a few readers.

Frequently asked questions FAQ pages
The web and other Internet-based media have evolved a unique institution, the FAQ, or "Frequently Asked Questions" page where the most commonly asked questions from users are listed along with answers. FAQ Web pages are ideal for Web sites designed to provide support and information to a working group within an institution, or to a professional or trade group that maintains a central office staff. Office staff and public relations personnel know that most questions new users ask have been asked and answered many times before. By making a well-designed FAQ page and referring users to it you could significantly improve the user's understanding of the information and services offered through your Web site or professional group. The FAQ page could also sharply reduce the time demands on your support staff who normally answer those routine, repetitive questions from users or clients.

References

December, J., and N. Randall. 1995. The World Wide Web unleashed. Indianapolis: Sams Publishing.

Lemay, L. 1996. Teach yourself Web publishing in a week, 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Sams Publishing.
Copyright 1997 P. Lynch and S. Horton,
   all rights reserved. Yale University   Revised January 1997.